3 min read
Posted on 04.07.11
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 04.07.11

What's next?

Over the spring and coming summer months, I plan to continue the conversations with City voters that began in the successful campaign for passage of Proposition E. And I will ask other city officials to join the discussion and to work with me on a systematic review of government - what we do, why we do it, and how much it costs. Our goal will be to find ways to deliver the right services well, fairly, and efficiently.

Here are some thoughts that I hope will draw you into the discussions you most care about:

It is already clear to most people that we need to work more successfully and faster to provide many more quality public educational options so families aren't forced to leave neighborhoods they love to find good schools for their children. What options are acceptable to you, which ones are not?

It is also clear that merely having a large police force really isn't addressing a high crime rate. When we get local control of the St. Louis police department, we must make sure the quarter of a billion dollars per year the City spends on law enforcement gives us better results. What should that new department do first, do next?

We must make sure we have a fair, bearable, and diversified tax structure that pays for good City services, without booms and busts, and in ways that fosters growth. What should those taxes be? Is the earnings tax one of them?

We must bring down the skyrocketing costs of the several public employee pension systems so they do not continue to erode the quality of our services. Pensions already earned must go untouched, but what is the proper balance between current employees and future ones?

We live next to a county of 91 municipalities. It is our best friend and ' historically ' our biggest competitor. As the US Census has recently informed both City and county, the competition has taken its toll. What can we do to strengthen the friendship, to eliminate costly duplications of services, and to make a single St. Louis more competitive with better organized regions ' and with our true competitors in the world market?

Answering any of these questions is a daunting tasking, but we actually have to answer all of them, all at once. To do that, we have to defy a hundred years of tradition that keeps us doing the same things in the same way day after day, year after year. We can begin with changes to our own city, but that is not going to be enough for very long.

Change is not easy. Or quiet. I know we will face challenges from people who benefit from the status quo or who are afraid of change. I know that we will make some mistakes along the way. But no challenge is more difficult and no mistake is larger than trying to face the future wearing the government of the past.

I am not talking here about another quixotic run at "charter reform." Nor am I in favor of designing a government that does less or is simply smaller. In the end, it matters little how many elected officials we have. What does matter is making our City government better and the people it serves more prosperous. That is my goal. And it should be yours.